Mrs. Davis: The Holy Grail Commercial Explained
Nothing is what it seems on Mrs. Davis. Not even the series' violent first scene.
This article contains spoilers for Mrs. Davis through episode 5.
When accomplished TV writer Damon Lindelof (Lost, Watchmen) was scanning through a stack of scripts to find a writing partner for his next project, he knew he wanted a scribe with nuts and bolts TV experience. He eventually found that partner in the form of Tara Hernandez, who had worked on traditional TV heavy-hitters like The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon.
Together, Lindelof and Hernandez would go on to create the concept of Peacock‘s wild new sci-fi series Mrs. Davis. But why, exactly, did Lindelof seek a collaborator who knew how to write within a comfortable sitcom format for this ambitious project? Because in order to upend the expectations of television storytelling one has to first master them.
“It does feel a bit non-magical and mundane to break down the fundamental aspects of creativity,” Lindelof told Den of Geek at this year’s SXSW. “That said, there is a structure and a form in broadcast television. An episode has to be a very specific length and it has to be constructed around commercial breaks.”
Broadcast television indeed has a structure and a form. But streaming television? Not so much. By virtue of its status on Peacock’s servers, Mrs. Davis is able to play around with the limits of episodic storytelling as it pleases. After all, it’s not like Mrs. Davis has to concern itself with advertiser-mandated commercial breaks!
As it turns out, Mrs. Davis absolutely does have to consider advertisements. We’re not just talking about the fact that each episode is interrupted by one commercial interlude on Peacock’s lesser “Premium” subscription tier (annoyingly, it’s “Premium Plus” that comes without commercials.” No, we’re referring to the fact that, unbeknownst to all, Mrs. Davis‘s very first scene has now been confirmed to be an in-universe television ad…and an intended Super Bowl ad at that.
If you don’t quite recall the details of Mrs. Davis‘s first scene at the start of episode 1, we recommend going back to rewatch it with fresh eyes now that you’ve presumably watched the revealing episode 5. Just as a brief refresher though: the cold open of the series purports to take place in the past – in Paris on Friday the 13th of October in the year 1307 to be precise.
There we see the last remaining members of the Knights Templar get burned at the stake for their crimes against the faith by the order of the king. The following morning, a young woman retrieves one of the knight’s charred boots from the ashes. When she returns to her convent of like-minded women, soldiers of the king arrive shortly thereafter and storm the place, looking for the Holy Grail.
What follows can only be described as an orgy of bloody violence. Mens heads are lopped off like piñatas. One woman is stabbed through the gut and uses the pointy end of the sword sticking out from her belly to pierce another guy through the face. After the violence dies down, only our presumed protagonist is left standing and she takes off with Holy Grail and recovered boot.
As introductions go, this was a fairly appropriate one for Mrs. Davis. The cartoonish nature of the violence fits so well into the show’s mish-mash of comedic and dramatic tones that one would never have considered that it was all artificial. That is until the ending of episode 4 casts it all into doubt. Pope Leo XI (Roberto Mateos) shares with our hero Simone (Betty Gilpin) a grainy VHS depiction of the opening scene viewers saw three episodes ago.
At first, Simone is profoundly confused. Is this a dispatch from the Vatican’s mythical past timeline viewing device, the Chronovisor? Nope! It’s a commercial for shoes. That much is made clear by helpful text at the end mentioning the “Miracle” shoe from the company “British Knights.” As does the inclusion of Rob Dougan’s song “Clubbed to Death” from The Matrix soundtrack.
In a TV show full of profoundly strange things, this is perhaps the strangest. Thankfully, episode 5 spends almost the entirety of its running time attempting to explain what actually happened here. The TL;DR of it all is as follows.
Matilda (Katja Herbers) and her daughter Clara (Mathilde Ollivier) are both members of “The Sisters of the Coin,” an order of women entrusted with protecting The Holy Grail itself. It’s not enough to just protect The Holy Grail though as the object comes along with some curious bylaws. Obviously, the most important rule is to never drink from the Grail but Article XIII of the Grail Code also says that the object must be viewed by no less than 1% of the world’s population every year. Article XIII wasn’t much of a problem in the pre-industrial era as the world’s population was quite small. In modern times, however, fulfilling the 1% of the population mission has proven to be much harder.
That’s when Matilda gets a great idea. They will shoot and air a Super Bowl commercial featuring the Holy Grail and it will be watched by more than enough people to satisfy Article XIII. So that’s just what the Sisters of the Coin do and that’s the commercial we see at the beginning of episode 1 and the ending of episode 4. There’s just one problem though: Matilda never actually got permission from the British Knights shoe company to film the commercial. They don’t want it. Plus, the commercial is more than five minutes long, which seems like it would be a bit of a stumbling block in purchasing ad time.
The commercial was mothballed, never to be seen again, until one day we viewers stumble upon it at the very beginning of Mrs. Davis‘s journey.
The first five episodes of Mrs. Davis are available to stream on Peacock now. New episodes premiere each Thursday culminating in the finale on May 18.